The Magic Came Back
The Denman Island Readers & Writers Festival made a triumphant return in July 2022. Ten authors arrived on our island and totally captivated festival attendees, whether in solo sessions, panel discussions, at meals in the back hall, or in impromptu coffee chats. Here is a brief recapitulation of the highlights.
Des Kennedy opened things off with a brilliant and humorous set of stories and reflections from previous festivals. Then it was off to the literary races with Brian Goldman‘s powerful presentation on his life as an emergency room physician and the impetus for his books on kindness and teamwork. Equally moving was the next presenter, Jonina Kirton, whose humour and warm spirit helped to mitigate some of the dark and traumatic poetry from her family and ancestral history. After lunch, Mark Jaccard stirred the crowd with his persuasive and compelling advocacy about how to cope with climate change as well as warning us of so-called simple solutions to the crisis. Peggy Herring followed with a fascinating audio-visual journey describing how she discovered a 200 year old Russian shipwreck on the Olympic Peninsula coast and then wrote a riveting novel about it. The afternoon wound up with a stellar talk by Michael Christie about his multi-generational family, tree-focused novel spanning 130 years. Friday evening featured two intriguing one-hour sections; first the Writing Week leader Angie Abdou interviewed Anosh Irani, then local author Howard Stewart engaged authors Kate Harris and Cedar Bowers in animated conversation about their writing and lives.
Saturday morning brought former MP and social activist Libby Davies to the stage, where she regaled the appreciative crowd with tales of her efforts to bring tough social issues to public attention. She drew a standing ovation at the end. At her first live literary festival, Cedar Bowers wowed the audience with her description of creating her debut novel Astra, and answered thoughtful questions from the floor about her imagined protagonist. Following lunch, Anosh Irani, novelist and playwright, took us to the streets of Mumbai, the source of much of his powerful stories and was generous in responding to questions about the difficult topics he deals with in his work. Next the audience was treated to a lively interchange between Mark Jaccard and Libby Davies on the topic of how to make change happen.
Five local authors then read their work – Bill Engleson, Angela Ferguson, Thomas Provencal, Annie Siegel and Laura Busheikin – all to an appreciative audience. Previously Carolyne Montgomery and Lorraine Martinuik had read their winning entries in the Writing on the Rock competition ahead of two of the invited authors. On Saturday evening organizing committee member Stewart Goodings moderated a panel featuring Michael Christie, Jonina Kirton and Peggy Herring, all of whom offered reflections on how their work is influenced by history and ancestry.
Sunday morning began with the ‘traditional’ Des Kennedy led conversation, this year with the renowned medical commentator Dr. Brian Goldman. The back and forth was indeed spirited, with Goldman sharing eloquent stories about life and death in emergency rooms and other medical facilities, especially in these two years of the pandemic. The final solo session was Kate Harris whose audio-visual presentation of her epic bicycling journey across the top of the world in the mountains and deserts of Asia left us breathless with wonder and admiration.
On the Thursday before the festival began, both Anosh Irani and Jonina Kirton led workshops, and Libby Davies facilitated a workshop on Sunday afternoon, all three of which sessions got rave reviews from the participants. As did the Writing Week which ran under the guidance of author Angie Abdou from Monday to Friday for a group of eight aspiring writers.
Special mention goes to Abraxas Books for making authors’ books easily available (long line-ups to have authors sign newly-purchased books followed each presentation); to Evan Penner and crew for super food and impromptu entertainment; to the Denman Guesthouse for takeaway meals and to Lacon Trading Post for coffee outside the venue; and to Randy Duncan and friends for live music during the two happy hours.
Full disclosure: as one of the organizers I am biased, but this was an extra-special festival, partly because we had missed having a full one for three years, but mostly because it worked so well with outstanding and personable authors, and generous and supportive audiences.
Stewart Gooding, August 2022
LOOKING BACK AT THE 2021 DENMAN FESTIVAL
This year’s Festival was another chapter in Denman’s long history of literary productions. With a set of online workshops led by talented BC authors providinTg the writing wisdom, and an in-person event entitled “Turning the Page” at the historic Community Hall featuring a talented group of Denman wordsmiths, it was a Festival with a difference!
Turning the Page – the in-person event on Friday and Saturday July 16/17 was an innovation: a totally Denman Island line-up in a diverse program offered twice on consecutive days. The performers included two musicians, Kevin Mitchell – who opened both sessions with a moving guitar solo Rocky Shores accompanied by a video of Denman people and scenes, and Bethany Ireland – playing the piano and sharing stores about how her songs have emerged from both momentous and everyday occurrences.
2020 Virtual Mini-Festival
Covid 19 forced us to cancel the 2020 in-person Festival. Instead we had a virtual mini-festival with the authors who had been going to attend in 2020 submitting presentations which were available on our website. Alongside these authors, several Denman writers were videographed as part of the virtual mini-festival. Caroline Adderson ably led The Writing Week via Zoom, to which eight participants from across Canada subscribed. It is hoped that the 2020 authors can attend in-person in the future. Authors: Michael Christie, Libby Davies, Brian Goldman, Kate Harris, Peggy Herring, Anosh Irani, Mark Jaccard, Jónína Kirton, and Tetsuro Shigematsu Denman Writers: Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Stewart Goodings, Graham Hayman, Howard Stewart, Jo-Anne McLean, Lorraine Martinuik and Carolyne Montgomery The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson
Looking Back on Festival 2019
by Stewart Goodings The day before last month’s Readers and Writers Festival was to start, I was in the Comox Airport waiting to greet Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. And I must confess I had serious butterflies in my stomach. While I had met many Cabinet Ministers and even a couple of Prime Ministers in my civil service career, Beverley McLachlin was in my mind a true celebrity. First woman Chief Justice, longest serving Chief Justice ever, a renowned jurist with a distinguished reputation. But Beverley turned out to be the most engaging, considerate, and down to earth person, as befitting someone who grew up in small town Pincher Creek, Alberta. And in the final main stage event of the festival, 230 people crammed into the community hall and discovered what an outstanding person she is. Prompted by Des Kennedy’s usual masterful blend of wit and penetrating questions, this thoughtful and humble woman gave the rapt audience a personal glimpse into her remarkable life and career. Prior to that event, she had mingled with the locals, toured the island with David Critchley, signed scores of copies of her book “Full Disclosure” after her solo session, relaxed at the home of Rick and Ann Paisley, and engaged in many conversations at lunch and dinner in the back hall. Beverley McLachlin’s participation in our festival was something none of us will forget. But while she was the most prominent public figure at the festival, I have vivid memories of all the authors. For example, David Chariandy with his moving excerpts from both his novel, “Brother” and his non-fiction ‘letter’ to his daughter, “I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You” … Billeh Nickerson with his playful poems and his warm personality … Andrew MacLeod and his ‘tell it like it is’ analysis of inequalities in health and social issues … Kathy Page’s heart-wrenching story of a long term marriage’s joys and strains in her novel “Dear Evelyn” … the power of Paula Wild’s visual and oral descriptions of the lives of wolves … Lindsay Wong’s straightforward but chilling stories of mental illness and weirdness in her family, so tellingly portrayed in her memoir “The Woo Woo” … Darrel McLeod’s almost hypnotic voice as he related his growing up challenges from his memoir “Mamaskatch” … and Jack Knox bringing explosions of laughter from his audience as he read stories from his “Hard Knox” collection of newspaper columns. One aspect of the Denman Festival I have always enjoyed is the opportunity to hear local island writers present their own writing compositions. During two well-attended sessions, eleven Denman Writers were featured: Lorraine Martinuik, Del Phillips, Claire King, Karl Goodwin, Valerie Raoul, Graham Brazier, Rick Balfour, Dawn Stofer, Al Black, Bill Engleson and Jo-Anne McLean. This is a unique feature of the Denman Festival and is clearly much appreciated by both the local writers and the audiences who come to these sessions. Poetry, memoir, fantasy, humour, spy story – several genres were on display and showed how broad and creative the writing talent is on Denman.
I relished the chance to moderate one of the main stage sessions, featuring the lively talents of Lindsay Wong, Billeh Nickerson, and Jack Knox. They made it easy for me. Stephanie Slater did a great job as a first time moderator at the festival, engaging Andrew MacLeod, Paula Wild, and Darrel McLeod on what motivated them to write their books. And Des Kennedy, our resident genius in drawing out the ideas and personalities of our visiting authors, talked with David Chariandy and Kathy Page on the broad topic of character creation. Workshops were held on playwriting (led by Dante Ambriel), non-fiction research (led by Andrew MacLeod), and the poetry of place (led by Billeh Nickerson) and all received positive ratings from the participants. Two other “craft” events took place too: the five day Writing Week, led for the third consecutive year by Vancouver novelist and writing teacher Caroline Adderson, and the Blue Pencil Café, a short manuscript assessment program led by Jeanette Taylor, the writer from Quadra Island. Feedback from these two programs was also very positive. I really enjoyed the Opening performance by the inimitable Paige Turner (aka Jennifer Lee), representing the Ministry of Truth. She shared her horror at the awful policies being proposed by her Big Brother employer (all courtesy of George Orwell’s prophetic novel “1984”) , which had an uncanny resemblance to current events. This ‘playlet’ was conceived by the committee’s own Helen Mason, and ably directed by Juan Barker. It got the festival off to a memorable start. What else? Well, for the first time, there was a silent auction of gifts and services donated by the generous local sponsors. And it too was a success, netting over $1700 for the continuation of festival activity. And there was a Happy Hour on Saturday late afternoon, with music by Randy Duncan and Paddy O’Connell, with festival-goers on the grass and patio behind the back hall, chatting and clutching glasses of cool beverages served in style by Don Candy and Larry Berg. Another first … beautifully designed and hand-made book bags with the iconic festival symbol ‘Girl in Red Shoes’ on them … these bags flew off the shelf. As usual, lunches and dinners were catered by Evan Penner and Ron Cadarette and their cheerful crew. And as in the past, the Saturday evening dinner was enlivened by an impromptu dance routine led by Evan in a wild Richard Simmons costume … not your average staid literary festival meal, as one amused visitor noted!
Writers: David Chariandy, Jack Knox, Andrew MacLeod, Beverley McLachlin, Darrel McLeod, Billeh Nickerson, Kathy Page, Paula Wild, Lindsay Wong The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson Blue Pencil Cafe: Jeanette Taylor Workshops: Dante Ambriel, Andrew MacLeod, Billeh Nickerson Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Stephanie Slater Denman Writers: Rick Balfour, Al Black, Graham Brazier, Bill Engleson, Karl Goodwin, Claire King, Lorraine Martinuik, Jo-Anne McLean, Del Phillips, Valerie Raoul, Dawn Stofer
Denman has just produced another successful Readers and Writers Festival. For three days in July, the downtown area was transformed into a living literary experience for visiting authors, local residents, and Festival aficionados. Below are a few highlights … a few memorable impressions that my organizing committee colleagues and I had about this year’s Festival. Friday 9:30 … Wedlidi Speck joins us again, and his opening is so calm and eloquent, just the right atmosphere to get the Festival off and running … Friday 10:30 … Full of puns and apt portraits of her large cast of characters, Marina Endicott reads from Close to Hugh … did I really sing “I’ll be loving Hugh, always …” in thanking her? … Friday 11:15 … A warm welcome for Emily St John Mandel, who spent some of her growing up years on Denman and now creates international best sellers from her home in New York … Friday 1:30 … A very familiar figure on stage, our own Des Kennedy, reads from his latest Beautiful Communions , with his distinctive voice giving credence to his characters and the story he imagined … Friday 4:00 … An intriguing reading by Yasuko Than, bringing us to a world of a century ago, with Vietnamese plotters and French occupiers … Friday 5:45 … What a whirlwind performance by Sarah Dunant, showing us photos of Renaissance artists and letting us into her creative mind behind her books about women in that dramatic period of European history … Friday 10:00 … A dynamite day with the evening Main Stage brilliantly opened by Wedlidi Speck, and then augmented by the lively and thoughtful conversation with Bev Sellars, with Des leading the way with his customary blend of empathetic questions … Saturday noon … What a morning with Bev Sellars, Christine Lowther, and Jim Hoggan all sharing their powerful writing and histories. Bev: “When you are ignorant of others, racism can result. What you get to know others and understand them, the racism is broken down”. With humour and conviction Christine instills in the audience a passion about our land the natural world around us. And Jim reminds us that the best way to deal with a toxic public arena is to “speak the truth, but not to punish” … Saturday 3:00 … Wow, that Sheri-D sure knows how to liven up an audience. She asks us if we are willing to be weird, and we then prove Denman loves being weird as we chant and move our bodies in response to her vivid spoken word … Saturday 4:00 … Geoff Dembicki reads from his powerful book about climate change with a focus on the opening chapter which features two of Denman’s community members, Peter Janes and Magdalena Joly … Saturday 6:00 … The General Store’s Poet Laureate, Jennifer Lee, aka Paige Turner, regales a crowd with a comic/serious exposition about the historic General Store and its Grumpy leader … Saturday 7:00 … Once again, Evan and Ron and their crew get us moving in a crazy hat dance accompanied by 60s music, before treating us to a tasty meal in the Back Hall, where authors and festival goers happily mingle … Saturday 9:30 … A rich evening of back and forth conversation among four novelists – Des Kennedy, Marina Endicott, Yasuko Thanh and Emily St John Mandel, ably facilitated by another novelist, Caroline Adderson … the two hours fly by … Sunday 10:00 … the second session of readings by Denman writers … as with yesterday’s session, a diverse mix of poetry, short story and memoir … fine examples of the writing culture of this island … Sunday 11:00 … Another Sheri-D Wilson performance of passionate poetry and spoken word expressing her moving and effervescent spirit … Sunday 1:00 … The final panel of Jim Hoggan, Christine Lowther and Geoff Dembicki was a delight for me to moderate and while the panelists did not shy away from expressing their deep worries about the big issues, especially climate change, they left us with hopeful signs and advice so we leave the Festival with a renewed sense of hope … and Wedlidi sends us off with his closing words of wisdom, compassion and calm … Sunday 3:00 … Clean up almost over … only 12 months to Festival 2019. Thanks to the authors and the audience for some wonderful memories of another successful Denman community event. Stewart Goodings July 2018
Writers: Geoff Dembicki, Sarah Dunant, Marina Endicott, James Hoggan, Des Kennedy, Christine Lowther, Emily St John Mandel, Bev Sellars, Wedlidi Speck, Yasuko Thanh, Sheri-D Wilson The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson Moderators: Caroline Adderson, Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy Denman Writers: Edi Apter, Sheila Simpson Brown, Morley Crosby, Lucy Dabbs, Elizabeth Gries, Graham Hayman, Sharon Mackin, Elaine Martin, Michael Rapati, Laura Rodben, Annie Siegel, Peter Paul van Camp
Stewart Goodings It’s a week later. The authors have all gone home. The stage is empty, the signs packed away. What remains of the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival 2017 version? The Canadian author Ernest Hillen, who wrote an evocative memoir, “The Way of A Boy” about his childhood in Java under WWII enemy occupation, ended his book with these words: “Memory is, finally, all we own.” And for me, so many memories from our most recent festival … here are a few … and if readers of this website have others they’d like to share, let’s hear from you …. … at the Opening, seeing our two charming ‘refugees’ from the Baroque Festival banter back and forth, and listening to the community choir sing two songs from that Festival of last June – both vivid reminders of the richness of the cultural life on this island … watching spell-bound, as our master interrogator, Des Kennedy, engaged two of Canada’s most accomplished historians, Charlotte Gray and Ronald Wright in a wide-ranging discussion of myth and reality in literature and life … standing on a sunny Friday late afternoon, listening to the General Store’s Poet Laureate Jennifer Lee entertain a throng of festival-goers in front of the store … admiring Deborah Campbell’s powerful and compelling presentation of her saga of reporting from the front lines of war and refugee troubles in Syria and Iraq … watching the faces of a predominantly older demographic of citizens being bemused and amused by Hasan Namir’s description of the trials, tribulations and somewhat graphic joys of being a gay man in Iraq and Canada … marvelling at the skill and sheer bravado of Missie Peters and Dave Morris as they improvised a funny and thought-provoking start on the Sunday morning Main Stage … seeing a new generation of Denman writers – two engaging 8 year olds, Selena and Abby – kick off the Sunday morning Denman Writers session, one of two such sessions, a unique feature of our literary festival and a reflection of the Festival’s commitment to encouraging local writers … laughing along with the audience at Andrew Struthers and his wild tales of around the world travel as well as his ‘pro’ and ‘con’ analysis of marijuana use … relishing the delight shown by Carleigh Baker, making her first appearance at a literary festival by showcasing her debut book of short stories .. watching the evident pleasure of Matsuki Masutani as he introduced Hiromi Goto, whose first book he translated into Japanese 20 years ago, and Hiromi’s delight at this reunion with her Denman friend … savouring the tastes of the delicious catered food in the Back Hall, elegantly prepared and served with gusto by Evan and his crew, with the Saturday evening Rainbow dinner further enhanced by the disco music and dancing by the chef and his helpers … carrying out one of my happy chores of handing out door prizes from our local sponsors – so many of them from generous Denman Island supporters … and as usual, what an ending: Des in lively conversation with the courageous and articulate Andrew Nikiforuk whose stories of exposing corporate greed and government neglect as well as citizen protest brought a packed house to its feet at the conclusion of the final Festival event This was not an easy year for Festival organizers – coping with five author cancellations over the last six months, and a broken down Baynes Sound Connector on both Friday and Saturday mornings, plus competition this year from MusicFest in Courtenay. Yet, despite the setbacks, we all felt energized by the appreciative responses of both our authors and the festival audiences. Onward to 2018! photos by Kerry Dawson
(Click on photo to see high resolution version)
Writers: Carleigh Baker, Deborah Campbell, Hiromi Goto, Charlotte Gray, Hasan Namir, Andrew Nikiforuk, Missie Peters, Andrew Struthers, Ronald Wright The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Jennifer Lee Local Writers: Dante Ambriel, Charlotte Barrow, Bill Engleson, Abby Erickson, Jan Florian, Stewart Goodings, Karl Goodwin, James (Butch) Leslie, Lorraine Martinuik, Jo-Anne McLean, Daryl McLoughlin, Selena Mills, Del Phillips, Valerie Raoul, Dawn Stofer
Annette Reinhart Wow! What a crazy year this was with record ticket sales, capacity crowds and a noted celebrity in our midst. In the wake of all that buzz and activity, there are countless ideas to be digested and no end of books to be read. To start things off, Jennifer Lee (with help from Juan Barker, Ron Dobie, Eli Hason and some excellent Denman actors) produced a dramatic rendering of excerpts from My Ain Folk, the Denman historical writings of Winnie Isbister. The lights, sound, and costuming (Kerri Davis) made for a mermerizing experience, all the more powerful having some of the descendant family members in the audience. For the third year (and continued rave reviews), The Writing Week with Steven Price gave a select group of writers the opportunity to work with this highly respected teacher from UVIC. Three other authors gave workshops in their field of expertise in addition to one given by Denman Island’s Jo-Anne McLean who offered some of her secrets to successful Self-Publishing. In our panels and solo readings, there were so many rich and inspiring presentations. Experiences of displacement and poverty were creatively expressed by Jordan Abel, John Vaillant and Cecily Nicholson: heartbreaking tales and insights of living with mental illness and family tragedy were eloquently and candidly shared by Miriam Toews, Michael Christie and Charles Demers. In addition, J.B. MacKinnon’s meticulous research brought new perspective to our environmental history and current urgencies, and the amazing Bruce Cockburn talked of his life of political, spiritual and emotional development – as well as talk of music!
All of these authors galvanized and inspired their audiences. As usual, numerous people praised the quality and diversity of the writing done by Denman writers who generously shared short pieces in two sessions over the weekend. On top of this feast of ideas and information, we had the creative storytelling and accordion playing of Barbara Adler (with help from her cohort, Paul Paroczai), the acapella appearance of Denman’s three masked singers, after-party music by Annie and Oliver, and the extraordinary(!!!) meals (including an authentic Mennonite menu with theatrical presentation to honour Miriam Toews) by Evan, Ron, & company – with a little help from the excellent Two Roads Farm.
What an amazing community this is to achieve the scale and quality of an event like this! Many, many hands helped to make it all come together. We’ve all come away with loads of great memories and many lovely encounters – connections and inspirations between readers and writers – just what this festival is all about. One to remember was the sudden appearance of Bruce Cockburn during a quiet moment on Friday afternoon when he parked and headed straight over to Sheldon’s coffee shack. Bruce proceeded to sit alone for an hour on the stool outside the shack, chat with Sheldon, strum his guitar, and drink what, I’m sure, was Sheldon’s most finely prepared cappuccino. photos by Brent Reid Writers: Jordan Abel, Barbara Adler, Michael Christie, Bruce Cockburn, Charles Demers, J.B. MacKinnon, Cecily Nicholson, Miriam Toews, John Vaillant The Writing Week: Steven Price Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Jennifer Lee Local Writers: Wendy Burton, Lucy Dabbs, Roberta DeDoming, Arielle Fraser, Mica Gries, Graham Hayman, Claire King, Annie Siegel, Sheila Simpson-Brown, Stephanie Slater, Hillel Wright
Annette Reinhart Denman Island hosted Canadian writers who came from sea to sea for this year’s festival. Atlantic Canada’s bestselling author, Michael Crummey came here from Newfoundland, First Nations Lee Maracle arrived from Toronto while prairie writer, Fred Stenson drove for two days from Alberta. BC authors Aislinn Hunter, Donald Gutstein, Siling Zhang, Renee Saklikar came from the lower mainland while Eliza Robertson traveled up island from Victoria and Bob Bossin came from Gabriola. All of these talented authors gave solo sessions and participated in panels to share their creative works of imagination or research. All gave us thoughtful and inspired moments and left us with new ideas and insights.
Our halls are still ringing with Lee Maracle’s laugh, Michael Crummey’s thoughtful reflections, Siling Zhang’s dynamic slam poetry, Renee Saklikar’s articulate poems, Donald Gutstein’s researched arguments, Bob Bossin’s songs and stories, Eliza Robertson’s creative work, Fred Stenson’s prairie tales and Aislinn Hunter’s wit and generosity (she announced from the stage that she would be donating her festival earnings to create a book allowance at Abraxas Books for the winner of a creative writing contest that will be promoted locally). Local moderators Stewart Goodings and Des Kennedy as well as Victoria broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts each hosted a themed panel that gave us a chance to see groups of these writers discuss shared topics and issues. The opening welcome was a multi-media performance by Maxine Matilpi and Laurie Montemurro, two talented Denman women who created a beautiful beginning to the weekend. Brought back by popular demand, Steven Price was our Writer-in-Residence and once again, directed a sold-out five day workshop for writers both aspiring and published. His skill and sensitivity for the written word and the structure of narrative brought him high praise from the attendees.
Other festival authors also held workshops that were largely sold out and continue to be a popular and unique feature of our festival. In addition, fifteen Denman writers read from their writing during two sessions over the weekend showing the talent and diversity that thrives here at home. And impossible to forget homemade delicious meals prepared by a crew assembled by Evan Penner and Ron Cadarette (from the Denman Hardware Emporium) – truly multi-talented men demonstrating their hospitality skills with beautifully made and presented food that culminated with do-it-yourself ice cream sundaes at the Saturday evening dinner! Also, our coffee providers from the Earth Club Factory continued to bring much appreciated caffeination to our audience and presenters. The Earth Club Factory also supported the festival by donating accommodation that allowed three enthusiastic high school students from the Comox Valley to attend our festival weekend as recipients of the Zaccheus Jackson Bursary program – established to encourage young writers and to honour the amazing slam poet who died tragically shortly after his 2014 appearance at our festival. Surprise appearances of the spectacularly costumed Carmen Mirandas (Margaret Fraser, Maxine Matilpi, and Susan Marie Yoshihara) and the Denman Island General Store’s poet laureate, Poetica Melancholia (Jennifer Lee) added a fun and theatrical touch to both our evening events. Mix together all the above mentioned ingredients with fine weather, attentive audiences, supportive community, a cast of Denman volunteers and hospitable billet hosts, and it is no wonder that ours is such a successful and sought after literary festival. ” …. one of the best little literary festivals in Canada.” – The Globe & Mail photos by Annette Reinhart Writers: Bob Bossin, Michael Crummey, Donald Gutstein, Aislinn Hunter, Lee Maracle, Eliza Robertson,Renee Saklikar, Fred Stenson, Siling Zhang Writer-in-Residence: Steven Price Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Jo-Ann Roberts Local Writers: Sheila Brown, Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Stewart Goodings, Lindsay Langdale Graf, Mica Gries, Graham Hayman, Butch Leslie, Elaine Martin, Lorraine Martinuik, Jo-Anne McLean, Del Phillips, Annie Siegel, Alan Stoddart, Hillel Wright
Annette Reinhart Denman residents are rightly proud of their community events, and the July Readers and Writers Festival deserved a lot of community pats on the back. However, it is even better when the praise comes from our guests and visitors. Renowned editor and publisher, and star performer at our Friday Main Stage event, Doug Gibson said, “Any writer who gets the chance to go to the Denman Island Festival has won the lottery. It’s great fun, in a spectacular setting, among bright, welcoming people who make you feel right at home. You may never leave.” And this from Vancouver author Caroline Adderson, who referred to Denman as a “….. warm, generous and well-organized community. I loved every minute”, while Derek Lundy from Salt Spring told us, “I haven’t had a better time at any literary event – festival or otherwise.” It’s pretty clear that the Denman Festival lived up to its reputation as the “friendly festival”. The numbers were up too, with Solo Readings bigger than ever, and all the workshops full. The tasty meals in the Back Hall brought in 20% more diners than last year. For the organizers, what impressed was the conviviality and involvement of the invited authors this year. Many of them attended most of the sessions and rubbed shoulders with Festival attendees at the breaks and over meals. This makes the experience of being at the Denman Festival quite different from many other literary gatherings where writers do their reading, then disappear. Everyone has their highlights, but based on feedback from Festival-goers, a few stand out. The Solo Reading with Zaccheus Jackson, the young slam poet, was full of his energy and passion and his remarkable rapid-fire delivery. The most popular event, in terms of numbers, was the Sunday morning conversation with Des Kennedy moderating a lively and profound discussion with the water rights advocate Maude Barlow and the environmental journalist Chris Turner. These Sunday conversations with a focus on social justice issues have in the last three years become a highlight of the Festival. No one at the Friday evening Main Stage event will forget Doug Gibson’s eloquent and moving stories about the iconic literary figures he has edited and published over a 40 year career. It was like being in someone’s living room and hearing famous people come to life. The opening Solo Reading session featuring Richard Wagamese was memorable not only for the very personal stories he told about his life, and the moving excerpts he read from his book, “Medicine Walk”, but especially for the 15 minute oral essay he delivered at the start of his presentation. As the saying goes, you could have heard a pin drop. Other notable memories were Jori Phillips, our Miss Spelled, circulating around the downtown venues in her now famous “thesaurus dress”; Ken Hatch and his colleagues belting out mellow music on the porch of the General Store; Festival organizers in their opening tribute to the Dora Drinkwater library; and the yelps of pleasure as Main Stage attendees won almost 30 gift certificates provided by local sponsors. Whether people attended Solo Readings, Workshops, or Main Stage Events, the 2014 edition of the Festival once again brought high quality literature and engaging personalities into the community. And let’s not forget the local Denman writers, 13 of whom performed their readings at two well-attended sessions. In his closing remarks on Sunday, Des Kennedy summed up the invited authors in these succinct and eloquent words: “I’d like to acknowledge our amiable collection of authors: Richard Wagamese for his brave and profoundly personal disclosures; Chris Turner for encyclopedic analysis and quick wit applied to current events; Zaccheus Jackson for his vitality and humour and open-hearted affection for his fellow travellers; Pauline Holdstock for the crystalline clarity of her precision prose; Doug Gibson for his priceless and intimate glimpses at the icons of Canadian literature; Maude Barlow – for being Maude Barlow; Caroline Adderson for her wonderfully sad and subtle wit; Angie Abdou for her striking energy and her inspired descriptions of vomit (you had to be there!); Derek Lundy for the lucid insight with which he took us to dangerous places; and Rita Wong for poetry that flowed like liquid through the watersheds of imagination.” The Denman Readers and Writers Festival, 2014 version, owes its reputation not only to these wonderful authors, but also to the scores of organizers, volunteers, billets and so many local citizens too numerous to mention who gave their time and talent and hospitality to make this event so successful. The moment the Festival ended, planning for 2015 began ….. as Jian Ghomeshi ends “Q” every morning, we too can say, “…. to be continued.” photos by Annette Reinhart Writers: Angie Abdou, Caroline Adderson, Maude Barlow, Doug Gibson, Pauline Holdstock, Zaccheus Jackson, Derek Lundy, Chris Turner, Richard Wagamese and Rita Wong Writer in Residence: Steven Price Moderators: Juan Barker, Des Kennedy and Doug Gibson Local Writers: Hersh Chernovsky, Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Stewart Goodings, Mica Gries, Butch Leslie, Lorraine Martiniuk, Jo-Anne McLean, Del Phillips, Annie Siegel, Howard Stewart, Hillel Wright and Susan-Marie Yoshihara
Annette Reinhart Warm temperatures and sunny skies combined with the newly renovated Seniors Lounge and outdoor patio made for the perfect setting for our festival weekend. Wedlidi Speck, the hereditary head chief of the Gixsam clan of the Kwakwaka’wakw cultural group, opened the festival by extending a warm welcome and anticipating the many stories and readings to fill our halls over the next days. Solo readings by all our authors were scheduled through the days and were enhanced by the outdoor music and poetry programming throughout the Denman village. Our own Miss-Spelled, with her handmade dress from pages of a Thesaurus, was present at all our venues to host, inform and generally wow participants with her creative garment. The Friday evening Main Stage Readings were hosted by Kathryn Gretsinger and featured a pairing of poets, Fred Wah and Steven Price, then a duo of novelists, Anakana Schofield and Terry Fallis. Saturday night, a trio of writers, Kevin Chong, Katherine Monk and Esi Edugyan, spoke on the role and context of “Music” in each of their books. Sunday brought some special programming with Terry Fallis making a presentation with visual projections, then a panel of authors, Ted Chamberlin, Lorna Goodison and Des Kennedy, speaking to the topic of “Islands” with moderator Kathryn Gretsinger. The finale came with a special presentation of Des Kennedy in conversation with Alexandra Morton, the high profile biologist who writes and works for the end of salmon fish farming on the west coast. This powerful presentation was followed by Wedlidi Speck who beautifully concluded this incredible weekend of stories told, information given, poems read and many new friends made! photos by Annette Reinhart Writers: J. Edward Chamberlin, Kevin Chong, Esi Edugyan, Terry Fallis, Lorna Goodison, Des Kennedy, Katherine Monk, Alexandra Morton, Steven Price, Anakana Schofield, Wedlidi Speck, Fred Wah Writer in Residence: Jack Hodgins Moderators: Kathryn Gretsinger, Des Kennedy Local Writers: Hersh Chernovsky, Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Lindsay Langdale Graf, Claire King, Jennifer Lee, James Leslie, Lorraine Martinuik, Jane Masutani, Joanne McLean, Howard Stewart
Annette Reinhart A huge thank you to all the participants and volunteers who made this year’s festival the best ever! It was an impressive event from the Grand Opening with our own Maxine Matilpi, to the Writer-in-Residence program with renowned Canadian author, Jack Hodgins, the Manuscript Assessment service offered by Langara College instructor and novelist, Heather Burt, and the Main Stage Events moderated by CBC’s Bill Richardson. Our community hall is still ringing with the echoes of Bernice Friesen reading in Irish dialect (channeling her mother-in-law!), Anne Cameron fiercely opposing resource extraction, and Kate Braid reading her poetry between the bass notes of Clyde Reed. Information and insight came to us from Daphne Bramham’s investigation of polygamy in Bountiful, Andrew Nikiforuk’s research into the tar sands of northern Alberta, Wayde Compton’s essays on mixed race identity and John Vaillant’s extraordinary chronicle of the vengeance of a Siberian tiger. Evelyn Lau gracefully read poetry, and husband and wife Paul Headrick and Heather Burt shared sections from their very accomplished works of fiction. Gurjinder Basran, our youngest author, read from her prize-winning, first novel. Denman writers presented outstanding readings and even young Denman writers contributed their own original stories. The highlight of the 2011 festival, in the end, was the connections made between writers, between readers, and between readers and writers. We have all come away from a fantastic weekend feeling richer from the ideas heard and expressed, and ultimately, from the making of new friends. photos by Annette Reinhart
Annette Reinhart Highlights include Joy Kogawa’s deep and heartfelt reflections in her solo session and main stage appearance, the melodic and inventive polyphonic readings with Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky Friday afternoon, the unforgettable authentic raven call on the Friday night main stage from Nancy Turner, and the irrepressible Des Kennedy with his raucous dedication to Bill(y) Richardson on the Sunday afternoon main stage. Equally impressive were the delightful young duo of emerging writers, Deborah Willis and Emily Mandel, poet Kevin Paul with his beautiful words, Brian Brett’s boisterous stories from Trauma Farm, Zsuzsi Gartner’s rapid fire prose and humour and her participatory quiz Friday morning, and Richard Mackie’s historical tales of Comox from its logging heyday.
‘Thanks for wonderful readings which started each day from local Denman writers, both adult and youth. Also, thanks to our writer-in-residence, Sharon Butala who gave a week long workshop for 10 lucky participants. Thanks also to Charlotte Gill who offered one hour long manuscript assessment sessions by appointment and provided individual feedback for those who prearranged their time with her. And our evening moderator, Bill Richardson, thanks for his humour and skill at bringing each panel together in approaching a common theme. And finally, thanks to all of you – audience, supporters, and readers – we hope we have provided a year’s worth of new ideas and authors to explore and enjoy! photos by Annette Reinhart & Danni Crenna
Visiting Writers: Elizabeth Bachinsky, bill bissett, Sharon Butala, Maggie de Vries, Dennis Foon, Shaena Lambert, Jen Sookfong Lee, Brian Payton, Calvin Sandborn, and Howard White. Writer In Residence: Jack Hodgins Host: Sheryl MacKay Denman Writers: Juan Barker, Jennifer Le Baron, Graham Brazier, Hersh Chernovsky, Bill Engleson, Dennis Forsyth, Jennifer Lee, Jane Masutani, John Millen, Jerry Miller, Del Phillips, Ron Sakolsky, and Jackie Ward. Young Denman Writers: Kassie Warner, Moshe Little-Guient, Maia Stanton, Lucy Dabbs (also reading work by Livia Gibson), Amelia Candy, Grace Rempel, Laura Schmidt-Schweda (also reading work by Faith Dunnett), Max Dabbs, Fiona Le Baron (also reading work by Vail Zerr), and Amy Stewart
Visiting Writers: George Bowering, Stephen Collis, Ivan E. Coyote, Marcello Di Cintio, Gary Geddes, Daphne Marlatt, Ruth Ozeki, Alan Twigg, Rex Weyler, and Carol Windley. Moderator/Hosts: Des Kennedy and Sheryl MacKay. Denman Writers: Janey Bennett, Graham Brazier, Sheila Carnegie, Bill Engleson, Dennis Forsyth, Jane Masutani, Megan, Jeronimo Miller, Del Phillips, The Raging Grannies, and Ron Sakolsky. Musicians & Other Performers: Gretchen Elsner, Carla Hallett and Robert Minden.
Visiting Writers: Marilyn Bowering, Baba Brinkman, Deborah Campbell, JB MacKinnon, John Pass, Brian Payton, Alisa Smith, Chris Tenove, and Richard Van Camp. Moderator/Hosts: Juan Barker and Des Kennedy. Denman Writers: Graham Brazier, Hersh Chernovsky, Ro DeDoming, Bill Engleson, Jan Florian, Elaine Martin, John Millen, Jerry Miller, Sheila Nopper, Del Phillips, Ron Sakolsky, Glen Snook, and Shaun Woods.
Visiting Writers: Bill Gaston, Christian Bök, M.A.C. Farrant, Daniel Francis, Terry Glavin, D.J. Hauka, and Susan Musgrave. Moderator/Hosts: Keith Keller and Des Kennedy. Denman Writers: Alison Bibby, Graham Brazier, Ro DeDoming, Bill Engelson, Jan Florian, Dennis Forsyth, Amanda Hale, Tim Hicks, Paul LeBaron, Elaine Martin, John Millen, Ana Miriam Leigh, Del Phillips, Gillian Rambold, Sile Simpson, and Norah Wright.
Visiting Writers: Emmajoy Crone, Amanda Hale, Julie Lawson, Jocelyn Reekie, Chris Robertson, and Tom Wayman.
Visiting Writers: Arthur Black, Anne Cameron, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Sheryl McFarlane, and Wendy Morton. Denman Writers: Tricia Andrews, Graham Brazier, Giselle Charlebois, Hersh Chernovsky, Maddy Christie, Diane Davis, Roberta De Doming Jan Florian, Deborah Graham, Amanda Hale, Hans Jungman, Linda Kadlec-Diver, Madeline Keller, Jos Kollee, Bentley LeBaron, Ana Miriam Leigh, Lorraine Martinuik, Jane Masutani, John Millen, Del Phillips, Sandra Puga, Joy Reeves, Annie Russell, Jessie Russell, Kian Slobodin, Ruth Terry, Theo Terry, and Lea Trepanier.